Tuesday, December 19, 2006

democracy now?

Tony Blair, Ramallah, 18 December

First of all we respect any democratic mandate, but the President also has a democratic mandate, he is the elected President of the Palestinian people. And it is not that people are refusing to allow Hamas to participate in the way forward, that way is open to them, they know what has to be done, but what we are saying is that they cannot have a veto on the process or the progress that all of us want to see. Because if the real issue is indeed the suffering of the Palestinian people, the desire for people to achieve statehood, we have a way forward. And one of the things I want to say to people in this region is understand the international community is in one place on this, we all of us want to see the two state solution, we want a viable independent Palestinian state where Palestinian people can govern their own affairs, where they can achieve prosperity, where they can achieve justice. We can't do that however unless it is done with people who accept the very basis of that two state solution, namely that we have two states. And therefore the issue is not about excluding anybody, the issue is whether people exclude themselves.


We don't respect any democratic mandate that gives an answer we don't want. Hamas cannot participate even though they were democratically elected. We have decided the parameters of discussion (even though we don't have anything to do with the discussions and we're not actually the parties who are directly involved in the dispute) but we have already decided that what Palestinians Actually Want is a two-state solution on the terms we lay out. And if they don't want it, tough.

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news from eritrea

Helen Berhane is an evangelical christian singer in Eritrea. Two and a half years ago she was arrested by the authorities for being a member of an unregistered church and incarcerated without charge in appalling conditions.

As part of a campaign which-we-cannot-name, but if you thought about you'd probably be able to figure it out, we wrote greetings cards to Helen this time last year. We were very pleased to hear that she has now been released - however, her injuries from her time in prison are severe and she is confined to a wheelchair.

So, thank you for listening Eritrean government, but please stop persecuting religious minorities.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

This weekend we have been making christmas decorations. We had fun at B's Woodcraft Folk group making a christmas tree from recycled materials so we decided to give a conifer tree a miss and make our own at home too.

We used four bits of cut card for the leaves. Each of those was painted green on one side. We made a collage of different bits of silver and gold paper for two of the remaining sides.

We then rummaged through our recycled paper box and fished out various glossy mags. Taking a very general interpretation of Christmas, we then cut out various pictures and stuck them into a random collage on the two remaining sides. There is a juxtaposition of pictures of pies, puddings, presents, crackers and cakes next pictures of people in squatter camps from charity begging letters and old people from the NHS advertising. As B says, we need to remember these people at christmas too.

We also made a little angel/fairy which sits quite nicely on the top. We all had quite a lot of fun doing that.

Otherwise, we're obviously into the run-up to the Winter Festival of Light, with every other house competing for large electricity bills. Does anyone think that a large 10 ft illuminated Santa is attractive, or is it just me who cannot bare the sight of them?

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Last night I had a dream

Last night I had a dream.

I saw Jesus kneeling in the dust, drawing with his finger. Around him there was a terrible argument going on.

Some people on one side were shouting about a man who had been caught in a homosexual relationship. Some were waving bibles, some were waving banners. Some were going a very strange colour in the face.

On another side, others were shouting about their rights, the bigotry of others, injustice and pain. Some were waving bibles, some were waving banners. Some were going a very strange colour in the face.

I thought that maybe the two sides were going to come to blows. Eventually they bent down and picked up stones from the street and began to get ready to throw them at each other.

And in between was Jesus. Sitting quietly, drawing in the dust. The two sides were getting so aggitated that they forgot he was even there. I wondered what he was drawing so I strained to see. I wondered why he wasn't saying anything to calm the shouting or to say what was right or wrong about the situation.

Then all of a sudden, the sides began to fight. And like an Asterix cartoon, the dust rose obscuring the people fighting. Under the dust and the flying fists, I saw Jesus fall to the ground, his face bloodied.

I can't remember the drawing.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

post offices

The government today announced the closure of more than 2,500 small post offices.

We live right at the edge of Coventry, in a suburb-cum-village called Eastern Green. About a year ago, the local post office closed several local post offices saying that they were too close together.

So, everytime I need to send a parcel, I have a fair walk to the nearest post office, which is a bit more than a mile away. We also have a very small post office a bit further away in a local village which I try to use if I am in that direction.

We used to live in a village on Dartmoor, where the village post office was one of the only links to the outside world, and I can see how many people would mourn the passing of their post office.

A main post office is only a 15 minute bus ride away for me. But is quite a different matter if you're 30 miles from the closest town or you are an old person living off a main bus route. I hope that those making decisions are wise in their choices.

But, really, we have to get a better idea of what these services are for. It makes no sense for me to use a post office to send parcels as I can send the same parcel with the same courier from home for half the price. A post office is a business, so if there are insufficient paid transactions (ie more than just people drawing their pension), then I'm not sure they deserve to survive. One might, indeed, be able to replace a permanent post office with a travelling benefits service together with a cut-down post service that only sells stamps. I am sure that is not a solution for every situation, but we have to broaden our perspective and our requirements.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Cartoon Church Dave has a rather splendid 2007 calendar out at the moment of his best bits from 2006. It has been a great year Dave, good luck for your work in 2007.

Also, I'd like to introduce you to a couple of other cartoon blogs I noticed earlier. Drew produces the hilarious Toothpaste for Dinner comic and his wife Natalie produces her own rather random comic.

Both are well worth checking out.

Friday, December 08, 2006

wintery allotment

Dropped into the allotment this morning - not much to report. The beans seem to have germinated and the peas don't. Things have been blown around a bit but nothing much out of the ordinary.

I've not really done much there recently as I've not found any relevant wintery jobs to be done in allotments. Maybe you all can tell me what I'm meant to be doing.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

news is another language

Another new TV station starts today - or rather two new TV stations.

France 24 is simultaneously broadcast in English and French - with exactly the same content in both languages. Or at least, it is meant to be. When I toggled between the French and English versions, they appeared to be showing different stuff.

So maybe that idea went down the tube in the first few hours of broadcasting.

Watch and learn. Mostly about how America is bad and France is good.

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Monday, December 04, 2006


In March this year, this happened. And not so long back, this happened.

And today, this.

Next time you walk down the high street wearing your ethical 'I spend £35 on a t-shirt' t-shirt, munching your ethical Fruit 'n' Nut, and wafting unsuspecting passers-by with the smell of your Community Traded Strawberry Cheesecake face cream, ask yourself who benefited from the radicalness being surgically removed from your radical product.

Was it the workers, the producers, the farmers, the shop assistant?

Or was it the faceless Shareholder and the red-faced-yet-somewhat-richer former Radical who is now hoisted upon the sofa of every cuddly daytime tv show as the 'rich-but-holy' saint?

Weep once again for the society we have refused to build and the opportunity we have lost in the service of the great god Mammon.

[1) I am not the best businessman that ever lived. Far from it and approaching the booby prize, in fact.
2) I appreciate that those I mentioned above have built successful businesses. I am not knocking successful businesses.]